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plant whatever brings you joy self help book lessons from the garden

Plant Whatever Brings You Joy

California girl/garden blogger/book publicist Kathryn Hall has just published a garden-as-metaphor introspective title, Plant Whatever Brings You Joy, blessed wisdom from the garden (Estrella Catarina 2010).

It is not a “how-to” gardening book but, rather, a book of observations about life gathered from the garden.

Skeptical at first, I was stunned to discover Hall’s lessons learned in the garden echo my own thoughts. It was startling, as if our minds are of one. I imagine it will seem so for most readers who put their hands in the soil or tromp through the woods.

Plant Whatever Brings You Joy has 258 pages with 52 chapters. Hall skillfully writes with the style of ladies who lunch. Her writing is a joy to read: elegant, fun, and definitely unique.

Each short chapter contains a vignette of Hall tending the garden or other adventure: giving birth in Mexico City, gardening in Holland with her daughter, gardening on the edge of woodland in northern California and North Carolina or tangling with critters wild and tame. She adds a lesson learned, tells how it applies to her life through personal story, offers wisdom and sometimes step-by-step advice, and gives the reader homework by ending with a question. No wasted words here.

In “Gently Guide the Tender Vine Lest It Become Wild, Tangled and Impossible,” Hall compares curbing wanton vines with redirecting and untangling the messes, physical or otherwise, one encounters in life. She describes sure-fire ways to assess a situation and asks, “What are the wild, tangled and impossible tasks and challenges in your life? What do you need to do to resolve them?” Her sincerity and comforting style makes you want to honestly think and answer.

Hall began developing her awareness of self in nature while growing up in two households among the orange groves of Southern California and, later, while experiencing the gardens and ideas of different cultures by living a nomadic life. She avoids “staying in the box.”

“I think there’s a distinct advantage of being exposed to change and difference from the outset and a price to pay for just accepting the status quo and living a 'normal life' and not exploring. People in America are at a disadvantage because you have to really stretch yourself to be exposed to other cultures,” she says.

Hall looks at being aware of her emotions and thoughts as a discipline. “I try to get people to think of their thoughts as the ‘crawl at the bottom of CNN.’ People just let their thoughts run wild and don’t even know.”

These things, she thinks, allows receptivity of the larger flow of thoughts from the garden and nature to other areas of one’s life.

In “When Pulling Up Weeds Get the Root,” she decries the fast fix of popping pills for every ailment large or small instead of getting to the bottom of things. Again, facing the truth, drumming up courage and moving forward. Would not we all remove the roots of distress in our own gardens?

A Few Hall-isms:
-Ask yourself: How awake are you?
-What do you have to do to wake yourself up?
-If you’re going with the flow, then you haven’t done anything to wake yourself up.
-Pay attention.
-Look everything up.
-Develop your curiosity. Try new things and experiment.
-In the garden you feel you’re part of nature to some extent but you have to delve.
-The only way to know a plant is to work with it.

Buy this book now. It’s a great read to finish just in time to make your New Year’s resolutions and a great holiday gift. Available in print or e-book.

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published November 15, 2011

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Book cover: Plant Whatever Brings You Joy by Kathryn Hall, photo courtesy Kathryn Hall

"Decorating one's home, office and oneself are all ways of honoring the season... We readily draw from nature in our festive endeavors. Though we often lose sight of it, we are not only inextricably tied to the seasons of nature, we are a part of it." (Excerpted from Chapter Wear the Right Garb), photo courtesy Kathryn Hall

Kathryn Hall at a booksigning at Readers Books in Sonoma, photo courtesy Kathryn Hall

"Sweet Pea, the deaf feral cat who entered my garden on a sunny day, is now fully socialized and lives lovingly with her companion kitty, Luna. They are inseparable." Photo courtesy Kathryn Hall

Border Collies continue to be an integral part of author Kathryn Hall's life. Above are Conner and Ruby. Photo courtesy Kathryn Hall

Antonia Hall, Kathryn's daughter (and favorite flower), with whom she gardened in Holland. Here she wears Myrtus communis or true myrtle, by Nature. Photo courtesy Kathyrn Hall

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